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MRI’s Reveal Dogs Actually Have Emotions

MRI's (2)While there’s no denying your love for your furry friend, do our pets actually love us back? Neuroscientists have been able to get inside the minds of dogs and discovered that they may not be in it just for the treats. These researchers put our furry friends to the tests and discovered surprising results

Do pets actually have emotions?

Neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, had the idea of seeing what his pet was thinking. Berns trained his pup to stay still while inside an MRI scanner by creating an MRI stimulator in his home. By training various pups and teaching hand signals to signal when they’d get a treat, the study began looking closer into if animals actually have feelings.

The MRI Study

The study revealed striking similarities between dog and human brain structures. The functionality of a key region, the caudate nucleus, shows emotions like anticipation. In Berns’s study, this brain region reveals that ‘treat time’ is something important that they enjoy which is analogous to what humans experience.

So does this mean your dog loves you or just the food? Treats or food can be seen as motivation to love us, similarly to what motivates someone to like another person. Depending on the pup, MRI’s showed that dogs reacted best to praise, food, or a combination of both.

Other MRI studies have shown that dogs actually understand what we say. Dogs actually love us and can understand our commands? According to this MRI study, dogs’ brains reacted to positive comments and commands using the left hemisphere of their brain. This means that dogs in this study were positively rewarded by meaningful words like ‘well done’ and ‘good boy’.

MRI’s are not only our favorite imaging tool, but this medical test also can help track brain activity in our favorite pets. The next time you’re questioning your furry friend’s affection for you, read this article for reassurance that they really do love you and listen. While our center does not specialize in puppy MRI’s, we’d be happy to help you with your imaging needs.